Spring Hopes Eternal

 

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Getting close to Opening Day. It’s exciting!!

Opening Day of baseball season is one of the best times of the year. If you’re a baseball fan, that is. Nothing like going out to the ballpark to cheer on your team, yell at the umpires, partake of some concessions (peanuts and sodas for me), go wild when one of your guys hits a home run (or one of the opponents strikes out), and just enjoy yourself for a few hours watching this great game.

And Opening Day is great, because every team has the exact same win-loss record. Every team has the same chance of getting all the way to the World Series, and winning a championship.

Anything can happen. In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won for the first time since 1908. A year later, the Houston Astros won for the first time in their team’s history.

Who will it be this year? The fans can’t wait to find out.

 

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Baseball has always been in my life. When I was a kid, we lived close to a minor league ballpark, and went there often during the summer to see a game. I’ll always remember my dad catching a foul ball one time, and handing it to me. I was probably about eight or nine years old. He was about as big a hero to me then as ever.

Then, in the early 1970’s (yes, I’m that old), Major League Baseball came to town, and I have followed the triumphs and travails of the Texas Rangers ever since.

(The 2011 season is still a sore subject. I tell you, we were this close, this close, to our first ever World Series championship, and we blew it. Some heartbreaks, you never get over.)

I had always watched the game, but it wasn’t until 1997 that I came to understand and appreciate the subtle nuances of it, after reading a book called The Baseball Fan’s Companion, by Nick Bakalar. It was that book that taught me the strategy behind pitching, hitting, baserunning, base stealing, signs and all the rest. Turns out, baseball is a much more complicated game than it appears to be.

And that’s what makes it great. It looks simple, but there’s a lot more going on than just scratching and spitting.

 

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One thing that will make this season more interesting is the implementation of some new rules intended to speed up the game. Now, when I first heard about this, I was kinda worried. Speed up the game?, I thought, That’s the beauty of baseball, that it goes at its own pace! What are you guys doing? I mean, there was even discussion about adding a pitch clock, so pitchers would only have so much time between each pitch.

I might have boycotted baseball if they’d gone through with that!

Fortunately, they didn’t, but some other changes will be implemented this season, on a trial basis, to try to make the game move along a little faster.

I guess it’s a good idea; we’ll see. Hardcore baseball fans are very resistant to change. It may take awhile to win ‘em over.

Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining way to spend some time. Even just listening to a game can be entertaining, just to hear the announcer call the game in a language all its own: “One on, one out, here in the top of the seventh. Hamels is trying to get Altuve to hit into a double play, so the Rangers can get out of this inning with no runs scored on them. Hamels sets, here comes the pitch…strike on the inside corner, and the count is now two and two! Hamels froze Altuve with a slider that time…”

There’s just something hypnotic about it. I think so, anyway.

It’s a terrific game. If you’ve never checked it out before, why not give it a try? If you want to get into it a little deeper, I recommend the book I mentioned earlier. And if you’re lucky enough to live near a stadium where a baseball team plays, even a minor league team, go attend a game or two.

And try to catch a foul ball for me.

 

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Go Rangers!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Cubbies and Indians

 

This is a great time to be a baseball fan.

It’s World Series time, of course, which is always special for baseball fans. What makes this one really special, though, is the matchup.

On one side, we have the Cleveland Indians, whose most recent World Series victory came in 1948.

Yep, sixty-eight years ago. Let’s put that in perspective, shall we? We were three years removed from World War II. Dick Button became the first American Olympic figure skating champion. President Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan. Milton Berle’s “Texaco Star Theater” premiered on NBC Television.

And the Cleveland Indians signed 42-year-old pitcher Satchel Paige to their team.

Now, on the other side, we have the Chicago Cubs, the “Cubbies”, baseball’s “lovable losers.”

Their most recent World Series victory was in…1908!

That’s right; over a century ago. Fifty-one years before I was even born, folks. Their most recent World Series appearance was in 1945.

What else happened in 1908? Well, among other things:

Henry Ford’s company built the first Model T automobile. Orville Wright made the first one-hour airplane flight. William Howard Taft was elected 27th President of the United States. Albert Einstein presented his quantum theory of light. Jack Johnson defeated Tommy Burns to become the first black heavyweight boxing champion.

So, yeah, neither of these teams have had anything to celebrate for a loooooong time. And the fans in both cities are absolutely berserk. They are ready to party, I promise you.

Tonight (Friday), Wrigley Field, in Chicago, hosts its first World Series game in seventy-one years. You don’t think that place will be rockin’?

And Cleveland, for so long a city devoid of champions, is still on a high from the Cavaliers recently winning the NBA pro basketball title. If the Indians win, too…!!

If you don’t watch baseball too often, now’s a perfect time. Even if you don’t know much about the game, get caught up in the unbridled hysteria taking place in these two great American cities. One of them is about to toast a World Series Champion, for the first time in decades.

It. Will. Be. Special. Play ball!

(you know who you are when I say, this is for you: Hot Dogs!!)